The “New” SAT Test - Things You Need To Know (and more)

School is back in session and Greenwich high school students are hitting the books hard. It won’t be long before thoughts turn to the ‘next steps’ of college applications. With the process of gaining acceptance to celebrated colleges and universities becoming more competitive than ever, students with serious aspirations need to do everything in their power to make certain their application will shine with academic splendor when it arrives in the admissions office of their chosen school.

Given the highly competitive landscape of the college applications process, a lot is at stake for students and the difference maker could be their SAT results. An excellent score on the SAT can be the item that sets an incredible student ahead of the pack - it can also help lift the profile of a student who may otherwise be considered borderline for admissions to their school of choice.

Now is the time to plan ahead - and even if grades, extracurricular activities and finances are mostly in line, there’s still the infamous and ‘formerly known as’ Standardized Aptitude Test, or SAT to contend with - and did you know that the College Board has fully revised the test this year?

Greenwich Education Group

Given this recent change to the format of the SAT and its overarching importance in the college admissions process, Living Greenwich connected with the Greenwich Education Group (GEG) and Torsie Judkins, its Director of Academic Services, to help us better understand exactly what has changed in the “new” SAT format and how students can better prepare for the test.

Torsie Judkins, Director, Academic Services at Greenwich Education Group Torsie Judkins, Director, Academic Services at Greenwich Education Group

For those of you who don’t know, the Greenwich Education Group has made it their mission to help local students prepare for (and excel at) their own academic development and success.  Their multiple divisions include academic tutoring (both, in-home and at the center), standardized test preparation, education consulting, specialized learning services, transition programs and four accredited schools which focus on the special needs of their student populations: Beacon, Pinnacle, the Spire School and Links Academy

Here’s some of what Living Greenwich learned from our conversation with Mr. Judkins:

Mr Judkins, first off we’d like to thank you for meeting with us today and sharing your expertise about what Greenwich students can expect from the newly revised SAT. Can you give us a brief overview of why the test has been changed?

Absolutely. For years, the SAT has been the key tool used to compare college applicants from high schools all across the country—as it was originally thought to be an unbiased and relevant point of reference.  Over the years, however, the SAT’s flaws have become increasingly clear. From overemphasizing the importance of obscure vocabulary words to relying on “trick” questions, the overarching problem seemed to be that it tested how well students had prepared for the test itself rather than what they had learned in high school or would use in college or later life.

As a result of these growing objections, the College Board announced in 2014 it was going to revamp its exam. David Coleman, president of the College Board, explained it as a “need to get rid of the sense of mystery and dismantle the advantages that people perceive in using costly test preparation,” and a “plan to make an exam that is clearer and more open” than any in their history.”

So, what will the new test look like?  

It’s going to look a lot different.

The 1600 grading system will return. The score will be based upon the wonderfully obscure 200–800 grading scale. Why? It has to do with the average score being scaled to 500 and a normal distribution of performance on each side based upon the percentile of students at each 10-point interval. Just remember that 1600 is good; 400 is not.

There will be two required sections and an optional essay: The verbal section (Evidence-Based Reading and Writing) will be divided into two parts: the Reading Test and the Writing and Language Test.

The Math section will have three segments: 1) Problem Solving and Data Analysis, 2) The Heart of Algebra, and 3) Passport to Advanced Math.

The essay portion will be optional, 50 minutes long, and will look at how well you make use of the source material provided.

The verbal section (Evidence-Based Reading and Writing) will be simplified. There will be more straightforward questions, clearer formatting for more seamless reading, and an absence of esoteric vocabulary. The focus will be on reading-based analysis; so when you prepare you should focus on understanding how a word is used rather than memorizing a definition in isolation.

With regards to vocabulary, no longer will students be asked to complete sentences from a choice of obscure words they’d spent hours memorizing only to never use again. You can wave good-bye to vocabulary flashcards loaded with words like “lugubrious” and “vapid.” Instead, you will be asked to determine the meaning of words like “synthesis” or “empirical,” based upon their context in the provided reading.

The Founding Documents of the United States will make appearances. You can expect that either a reading or writing passage will be based upon documents such as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Articles of Federation, Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail, and other important pieces of U.S. historical writing.

The Math section will focus much more on analysis of graphs and tables. The questions will integrate more science, though science itself won’t be tested. Problem solving, algebra, and complex equations that will be used in college, and possibly your later career, will be the points of focus.

Calculators won’t be available to use on every section, so it’s best to make sure that you know how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide without one.

Are there any strategy changes that students may want to consider when preparing for or taking the “new” SAT?

To start with, it will now be okay to guess at the answer. Students will no longer lose points for wrong answers. Trick questions are reported to have been eliminated, so if you aren’t sure of an answer, go ahead and guess. Guessing wrong used to cost a partial point, but going forward there will be no additional penalty.

How can the Greenwich Education Group help students prepare themselves for success on the “new” SAT?

Studies have shown that success in a rigorous course of study in high school is still the best indicator of success in college—but as long as the SAT is in use, students should continue to spend time preparing for it.

The GEG offers an immersive step-by-step SAT test preparation program which is designed to ensure that every child goes into the exam with not only an intimate knowledge of the test format and material but also with the confidence to perform at his or her best. Our educational staff has recently re-tailored our SAT test prep materials to account for both the format and subject matter changes of the “new” SAT.

And now, for a limited time only, we are offering families a special discount on a comprehensive “new” SAT test prep course that includes:

• 20 hours of test prep • Small group class of no more than 8 students • Includes a practice test • Includes one-on-one review of the practice test results • Includes one (1) make-up session • SAT book included in the price

This “new” SAT test prep package is being offered on a limited “first come first served” basis for only $750.00. Classes will be held Sundays from 1-5pm on January 17, 24, 31 and February 21 & 28 (with a make-up class available on February 7).

For more information regarding how to register for the GEG’s “new” SAT test prep course please call 203-661-1609 ext. 100 or tjudkins@greenwichedgroup.com.

Greenwich Education Group

Mr. Judkins, thank you for sharing your insights regarding the “new” SAT test with Living Greenwich. Do you have any parting thoughts for our community?

SAT preparation will now be more relevant to what you study in school and the materials covered will likely be more similar to those that students will use later in life—and for those who read frequently, expand their vocabulary, practice math skills, and push themselves to go beyond what they learn in the classroom, the “new” SAT will be a much more predictable and manageable experience.

Thank you for your time.

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